When you consider how prolific and experimental guitarist Steve Hackett has been since his time with Genesis, it gives pause as to why Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins get all the accolades. Then again, Hackett's forays into rock, world, classical and bits of jazz and even pop hardly offer the kind of user-friendly mainstream accessibility his former cohorts have been able to serve up. With Wolflight, Hackett's 26th solo studio album (according to his website) and his first 2011, the guitarist sets out to distinguish himself as a world-class singer, songwriter and instrumentalist with vision and validity that transcends past alliances.
There is a linear thread running through Wolflight, brought to the fore by a unique and stirring collaboration Hackett has with keyboardist Roger King and his wife Jo. Thematically, the title track and the general mood of the album have been described as "the light before the dawn," when the wolves themselves are out and about, weaving historical and literary suppositions with various places the Hacketts have traveled to. This sets a course for the music, imbibing exotic flavors from the east, west and all points in between.
The opening instrumental "Out Of The Body" boldly trudges forth, with a heavy Genesis approach before an orchestral underlining sets up the foundation for Hackett's intricate, broad guitar work. It serves as an appropriate preamble to the epic title track. Hackett has sung on previous albums, but here his voice assumes an authority and tone that helps to define the lyrics more convincingly. The adventurous passages that unravel around the verses add to the song's majestic leanings. "Love Song To A Vampire," which follows and features Yes bassist Chris Squire, sustains a similar repose in its smooth execution, with an almost eerie refrain when the orchestra moves in. That's likely the whole idea.
"The Wheel's Turning" is a carnivalesque collage, while "Corycian Fire" explores ancient Greece in a cascade of Mediterranean-seasoned exultations and cadences, creating a cinematic vision of Apollonian splendor. This is the kind of adventure Peter Gabriel is idolized for, and definitely a style Hackett is more than able. The acoustic bliss that enshrines both "Earthshine" and "Loving Sea" vividly reminds one of how incalculable Hackett's skills were to Genesis, GTR and beyond.
"Black Thunder" provides a little more backbone, but "Dust And Dreams" unifies the atmosphere in a rhythmic trance, tickled by Hackett's arbitrary guitar lines, before 'Heart Song" delivers a final verdict of hope. At each and every turn, Hackett possesses an uncanny ability to create an aura around a song without invading its own space. This approach is what gives the record its wings. There's an assured cohesion, a collective feel, even as each track can stand on its own legs. A salvo for the senses, Wolflight is an evolutionary step for Steve Hackett; a sure sign that even as he keeps revisiting Genesis on the road, his creativity has only been enhanced for the studio.
~ Shawn Perry